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The Last Survivors’ Second Summer EP Review

The Last Survivors blend spacey electronica with lively guitar work and chipper vocals in a manner reminiscent of Stars and Death Cab For Cutie. Saying the production draws influence from M83 wouldn’t be far off either, although the mix is drier on reverb than the former. The Last Survivors would benefit from more out-of-the-box sounds (as opposed to loops and software plugins) and some bigger, more-real space between the performances and the computer – which leads me to believe they would be great live. I particularly like the track “Dirt”, where the grittiness lends itself to the otherwise sparse production methods. One weak point would be the dubstep breakdown, which seems a bit forced and out of place in the genre. I’d like to see The Last Survivors stick to the dreampop/postrock aesthetic as opposed to alternative.  Overall, a decently produced release from a promising new artist. The Last Survivor’s Second Summer EP is available on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want.  7.5/10.

The Last Survivors Second Summer EP

Jae’s Wheel

Jae’s WheelD. H. Finfer

New York City, 1990

The man ran through the pouring rain hurriedly. He glanced at his watch, and after assuring himself that he was well beyond late, he jogged a little faster through puddles and soggy litter on the sidewalk. It began raining harder and harder, and soon all that he could see were blurry headlights of cars that passed by in the street. He came to an intersection.

There was already a large crowd of people waiting at the intersection, which made it hard to see the signs. The man saw the WALK sign illuminate, and he, with the rest of the people in the large crowd, began to jog through the crosswalk. Rain poured down his face, clothes, and briefcase.

He had almost made it one third of the way across the rainy road when suddenly out of the corner he saw a black shape.

It accelerated towards him, but for a moment, life seemed to slow down. His head spun, he saw images and people he didn’t recognize or begin to understand. A strange hum resonated through his mind, and it all sped up again. The black shape came through the curtain of hazy rain and materialized into a long, sleek, black Mercedes S-Class. Rain poured down its windshield as the wipers furiously swept it away. In one defining moment, the defenseless pedestrian’s mind floundered. His legs liquefied, and he remained planted in the middle of 14th Avenue.

He could make out the shadowy figure behind the steering wheel as the car approached him at close to 50 miles per hour. In slow motion, people’s heads turned to look, and the victim’s face turned away, eyes clenched tightly, hands slowly raising up to his face.

And the circle closed then and there.

The car crushed the man’s skull, spine and ribcage as it rammed him and threw him ten yards into oncoming traffic. People screamed, other people turned away from the horrific sight. The black Mercedes didn’t even slow down, but instead accelerated and was never to be seen again. Traffic stopped all around the victim, and people began to flow in.

The paramedics came in less than five minutes, but even then, they were too late. The men came out and loaded him onto a dolly, secretly knowing that he was a goner. The doors slammed shut, and it drove off slowly, no reason to speed. The policeman at the scene began turning people away from the scene. Morbid blood-lovers dispersed as any remains of the crash washed away into the sewer drain.

The event soon became a two-paragraph article in the New York Times the next day, and all was forgotten.

But if you ever find someone who witnessed the horrific event that day, ask them about the man that was hit. Anyone who saw the man’s face will swear, to this day, he had something magical electricity about him.

Ten Years Later2001

The nurse led him down the eerie corridor of the Sunnyvale Correctional Facility in complete silence. She was a large woman, gray curly hair and spectacles that looked straight out of the fifties. Her mouth was perched between two fat cheeks, and was surrounded closely by an intricate network of wrinkles. When the guards had led him from the armored police car to the lobby, she had met him with a stern and unforgiving glare. She continued to lead him down the hallway in complete silence. The only noise was the sound of the armed guard’s footsteps from behind. The floor was polished white linoleum, the same color as the walls, ceiling, lights, and everything else in the hospital. To him, it was just more work to keep it clean.

Finally, the fat woman turned a corner sharply and led him and the guard into a small, hot room, abuzz with printers and copiers. To one wall was a canvas sheet that hung down from the ceiling not unlike a movie screen.

“Stand in front of that,” said the lady, casting another unforgettable glare in his direction.

The guard stood at the door, ‘ready’, in case he were to become dangerous. Unlikely.

He walked over and stood in front of the canvas, facing an awkwardly large camera perched on a tripod.

How cute I’m going to look in my white little dress.

The lady stood behind the camera and snapped a picture of him. As he shook stars from his eyes, the lady read aloud from the printout.

“Jae Kordiak. Patient number 06-1196. Charged with aggravated first degree murder of Miles J. Magnussen and temporal instability.”

I am not crazy.

“Ooh, looks like you’re going to be in here for a long, long time, my friend.” She laughed, looking down at the printout with his picture and information on it.

No I’m not.

She smiled at him, gave him the ‘glad I’m not you’ look, before turning to the guard.

“Take him to number 9. He’ll like that one. No windows.”

Jae was appalled.

She laughed a deep bellow and turned down the hallway. He could hear her heavy footsteps resound on the cold hard floor, and were soon gone.

“Well, let’s go, chief. You’re room is waiting for you.”

He nodded his head in the direction of the hallway, and Jae reluctantly followed him through the door.

The two men, one in a police uniform, and one in a white dress, made their way down the hallway, when Jae spoke.

“I don’t deserve to be here.” Said Jae, angry.

The guard looked back at him briefly.

“Oh you don’t? Where do you deserve to be?”

Jae smiled, confident he would be rid of this filthy place very soon.

“You’re just a guard. You wouldn’t understand.”

I always get the crazy ones, thought the guard to himself.

They walked in silence down the winding hallways of Sunnyvale.

“But anyways, here is number 9.”

The guard smiled.

“Goodnight, Mr. Kordiak.”

Jae gave him a dark look as the thick white door slid shut and latched.

Good night, indeed.

After surveying the room, there was a bed, a night stand, on it a cheap lamp with a cardboard shade around it, and a counter. On the counter was a small sink basin and a mirror. Next to the sink was a glass of water with a flower in it.

“Disgusting!” Yelled Jae, smashing the glass of water to the floor. He kicked the lamp off the night stand and it crashed to the floor with a buzz and a shatter. Total darkness engulfed him.

He was enraged. Angry. Angrier than when he killed man in the subway. Because then, he had been free. He had enjoyed more freedom than anyone had ever experienced before. But now he was caged. A rat, a lab animal. Being tested to its limits. But that would soon change, Jae was certain. He would not be contained for long. Jae knew that the big white door may be locked tight, and there may be no windows in this damn closet, but that did not matter. He would soon be free.

He slipped into the clean bed. At least it smelled fresh. He lay on is back, looking up into the dark ceiling. Except it wasn’t entirely dark. There was a crack in the ceiling, through which a bright, white light could spill through from the day outside. And as he stared at the light, something was churning in his mind. Evil thoughts, strange thoughts, new thoughts. And the brilliant new feeling he had only felt once before. It was warm, it filled his entire mind, melded it into one feeling. The way everything felt, it changed. He kept staring at the brilliant white light, amazed at what was happening, tucked safely into his little bed. He had known that he would not be in this place for long, he didn’t deserve to be. And with one beautiful thought, he was gone.

Jae Kordiak had been pronounced legally dead on arrival the next morning by the resident surgeon at Sunnyvale. Rita the cleaning lady had been making her morning rounds. It consisted of bringing in breakfast to patients, cleaning their rooms, bringing in the newspaper. There was one young man who shredded the newspaper into perfect squares everyday, and laid them all out on the wood floor. They continued to bring it to him every morning, partly to keep him happy, and partly because it was so amazing to watch.

After delivering his newspaper, Rita had come to Room 9. She unlatched the thick wooden door, and found Jae in his bed, silent. She calmly called to him but got no answer. Rita tore the covers from his hands’ icy cold grip, and found him. There was a strange expression frozen onto his face, excited, almost elated. His glazed, lifeless eyes peered up at a crack in his ceiling. This was too much for her. Rita vomited on her white dress, and almost slipped on the broken glass and water. She had never seen a dead body before. She immediately called security, and the front desk. She asked the receptionist to call the doctor.

An hour later, they were hauling him away from Room 9. Jae Kordiak, patient number 06-1196, convicted of aggravated first degree murder and mental instability, was now a lifeless, cold lump of human flash under white sheets. No apparent cause of death was visible. No bleeding, internal injuries. It wasn’t a heart attack or stroke either. Nothing. Jae Kordiak simply died that night. And it was a mystery that plagued the Sunnyvale Correctional Institute for a very long time.

1962With a blindingly bright light, Jae Kordiak was greeted with the lovely smell of wildflowers. Warm sunshine bathed his shivering body, calming him from what had happened. He had gone from total darkness to beautiful sunshine very suddenly. He could hear birds chirping in the trees off in the distance, and the wind gusting through the field. The wind began to kick up, rushing through the trees and producing a very quieting effect. His cloudy eyes struggled with the intense light, but managed to pry themselves open. He saw colors, beautiful colors. Flowers of every conceivable size and shape lay before him in the lush green field. The smell was amazing.

Achingly, he stood up on two legs. They wobbled a bit, but he regained control. The pure shock subsided after a few moments as he oriented himself. He saw that the field was large, maybe a half mile in diameter. There was a forest of bright green trees to the north, and as he turned to look to the south, he saw a small creek.

He walked along the dusty, grassy path. He was almost insane with bewilderment. He did not know how he had gone from dark hospital room to bright meadow instantly, but he didn’t care. He was glad that he was gone from that place, even if it was probably just a dream.

“Oh, but what a beautiful dream,” he said loudly, taking in the warm air and beautiful sunshine.

His feet kicked up dust as he marched down the trail in some unknown direction. It almost looked familiar to him. Maybe he was having some sort of flashback from childhood. He didn’t want this dream to end, it was amazingly real.

The meadow turned into dry grass, which turned into pavement. He stepped off the grass into the road, and looked around. Sitting silently before him was his childhood home, as perfect as he had remembered it. Now he knew this was a dream for sure because this house had burned to the ground when he was eleven years old.

Taking steps toward it, he saw the welcoming shape of his mother in the kitchen preparing a meal. This almost brought tears to his eyes because his mother had died when he was twenty-seven. So many things had changed since this beautiful childhood had existed, and he was glad to be back, if only for a little while.

He opened the door and walked through the warm house that smelled of fresh bread and chocolate chip cookies. His nose flared at the delicious smell, he hadn’t eaten anything palatable for years. Prison food had been horrible.

His mother greeted him with a warm hug of affection, and told him to go sit down, dinner is ready. Jae smiled, he had never been so happy. He sat at the tall kitchen table, cheek laying in his palm as he looked at his mother. If only she knew what would someday happen to her.

OH!

He must tell her about the cancer, he must stop her from dying.

She turned around to him, smiled, but as his mouth opened to speak words of the future to her, she vanished, along with the rest of the house, and the memory.

The ReturnBlackness.

His eyes pried themselves open, and found themselves looking at the very same room he had come from. Room 9, Sunnyvale Correctional Facility. Tears welled and ran down his cheek.

It had been so beautiful!

Rita, the maid, knocked on his door, ready to give him his breakfast. Jae was unaware that when he returned to his childhood memory, he had died in this place. But upon returning, was alive and well again. In some faraway place, he was still dead, in the city morgue. But that is not here, that is not now. But Jae did not want to be here, no more crazy house. Rita knocked harder, and his anger welled up inside him again, and he thought of somewhere else beautiful, wishing that he could leave this place.

1968

In his mind, he pictured the perfect day. His mother, father and Jae were all at the park in Detroit, with a big lunch laid out on a warm basket. A baseball mitt and bat lay in the grass a yard away, and the smell of roasted chicken, the laughter of his father, and the feeling of the cool breeze all penetrated deep into his mind. And with one twitch of his mind, the mental hospital left him, for it had no place in 1968 Detroit. And now there was only Jae, his mother, and father. All reliving a beautiful memory, together.

The power that had been unlocked in the mental hospital stayed with Jae through out his life. It shattered any chains that time had at one point had on him, leaving only Jae and his memories.

He could return to any memory of his life, whether it be when he was 3 years old or 33. Any outcome of the memory could be changed, altered, and fitted to Jae’s wishes.

He now made no more mistakes, because any that were made were immediately reversed by him. He could now commit to actions, and not have to suffer the harsh consequences of them.

He knew that he could murder anyone so perfectly that he would never be caught, or simply return to a moment right before the murder and not commit it. But Jae had not been the type to do such sick things.

Murder.

That was the entire reason this had all began. Jae had been framed for a murder that he never committed, a victim that he had never known. At the trial, witnesses testified, and the verdict was passed. Jae pleaded insanity.

Thus, Sunnyvale for eight years treatment.

 Fifteen Years Passed2016

The aging Mr. Kordiak sat at his large desk on the 99th floor of the SekPrime Building in Boston, Massachusetts.

He looked down at his notepad, and saw the scribbled memos that he had written in it. He was tired of work, longed for eternal sleep.

Fifteen years had passed since he had received his power in the Sunnyvale Correctional Institute. He was now 61 years old. Every second that he existed, he thought of his power, and the benefits it would have. In the fifteen years he had it, he became the CEO of a very successful Electric company which recently bought out General Electric.

He didn’t need to guess the outcome of the stock market, he knew it for sure. Boeing, Microsoft, Intel, and Apple were all on his list of stocks that he knew would someday be very, very profitable. Financial peaks and dips could all be seen by Jae. His name was heralded around the world as the most successful businessman ever, who somehow knew the economy as if he were psychic.

In the days of long ago, he had been a superhero of sorts. Jae had averted that little World Trade Center disaster in 2001, the nuclear terrorist attack on London in 2009, stopped Columbine in ’99, the Oklahoma City Bombing in ’95, and the horrific disaster in Bellingham, Washington in 2004. But now, he had become used up. All the energy and excitement was gone from having his power, and he rarely used it anymore.

Thumbing through the stack of papers in his file cabinet, he found the crumpled and wrinkly paper that he had written regarding his power:

My Power

Jae Kordiak

As I have been using this power, I have come to the following conclusion upon how our memories, (and this power) work:

As we go through our lives, every tiny instant is really a freeze- frame image. Much like how a movie projector works. It consists of thousands of tiny frames, which represents an instant, and our minds put them into action as we exist. Memories that we keep in our minds are simply stills, or photographs. But most people think that our memories are just little treats to look back upon and remember the good old days, but there is actually a way to go back to these ‘stills’ and turn them into reality again. When the user with the power calls upon a ‘still’, he then returns to that point in time, and his consciousness is brought from the future back into that memory. So in essence, you could return to infancy knowing how to build an A-Bomb. Through my adventures into this sort of thing, I learned that letting anyone know about this power would be dangerous. I certainly do not want to end up in Sunnyvale again.

As far as I know, I can return to any particular memory and change it as many times as I like. For example, I can redo any memory as many times as I like, I simply must remember the original memory that actually happened once upon a time.

Oh dear, I’ve confused myself again.

Jae chuckled and set down the piece of paper and locked it back up in the file cabinet. Suddenly his secretary, Ms. Sherman, walked into his office.

“Mr. Kordiak, sir, you have a phone call in the main office.” She motioned towards the doorway.

“Can’t you foreword it to my phone in here?”

She shook her head.

“Something is wrong with our lines. Their all static.”

“Well get that fixed,” Said Jae, achingly getting out of his chair.

In the main office, he picked up the receptionist’s phone/

“Jae Kordiak speaking.”

There was a small moment of silence and then a low, raspy voice began to speak.

“Good evening, Jae, sir. Enjoying the sunset?”

Jae hadn’t even noticed it, but upon looking out the window towards the ocean, he noticed it was rather vibrant.

“Yes. Who might this be?”

“Call .Miles haven’t met before, but I’ve personally know all about your successes.”

Jae chuckled.

“Another admirer?” Jae asked the man.

“No. Mr. Kordiak, I know about you. I know about this little power of yours. And you need to stop. It’s gone far enough.”

“Who the hell?-” Began Jae.

“If you want to know more, join me in 1973. I’m sure you won’t have a problem getting there, now will you?”

The voice laughed for a moment.

“Meet me at the Brickford Cinema in Los Angeles. 7 pm, sharp. I’ll be in the suit.”

Before Jae could respond, the phone clicked off.

Beads of sweat collected on his forehead. He knew that this was bad. But the mystery had been settled.

There really were others.

1973Seemingly ancient cars drove down the streets of East LA, un aware, that there were amazing things happening right now throughout the future. Jae stood on the corner of the street outside Pickford Cinema, looking for a man in a suit.

“Wassup, honkey?” Yelled a black man from an El Camino.

Yup, Los Angeles.

A man in a neatly pressed white suit walked around the corner and smiled at Jae.

He was about his height, with dark brown hair and a scar under his left eye. He extended his arm and introduced himself as Miles J. Magnussen. His voice seemed very familiar, he couldn’t quite place it.

“Let’s take a walk and have a chat. We’ve got plenty of things to talk about.”

They walked down the street in the hot sun. Jae felt sorry for Mr. Magnussen, in a suit in this weather.

Mr. Magnussen began to speak.

“I know about your power. How do I know? Because I have your very same power. Many people have it. It’s no secret. We know about each other because we can sense the changes that we each make in our lives. This power is special, only a certain few people receive it, and when they do receive it, its usually by chance happening.”

“I see,” replied Jae quietly, not exactly sure of what to make of this strange man.

“We have called this power the power of the lifespan.”

“Interesting name,” said Jae.

“One receives this power by accidentally surviving an incident that had always been fatal.”

“What?”

“Our lives are eternally repeating, didn’t you know that? When we are born, the cycle begins, and our lives end at a certain moment in time. It always ends at that point in time, forever. And when we die, we are brought back to the day we are born. It is a cycle, a wheel, which continues forever. But sometimes, we avoid our deaths. If say someone is supposed to get shot in the head on a certain day, sometimes, the gunmen will miss its target. What then? Well, we are both dead and alive at the same time. We have exceeded our lifespan. Thus, time has no affect on us any more. No more time, no more boundaries. We are now free to relive any memories that we like. And even change them.”

They were quiet.

“I myself died in a car accident in Miami, but I avoided it. How did you die?”

Jae thought. He didn’t know, come to think of it.

“I really don’t know. I am not even aware that I survived any near- death experience. All I remember is being charged of a murder that I did not commit, and being booked into a mental hospital.”

“Of course you know,” said Miles. “Everyone knows when they received their power.”

Jae shook his head. He couldn’t recall.

“I realized that I had it in the mental hospital, but I wasn’t near death. At least I don’t think I was.”

“I’ll be damned. I do believe that you are the first we’ve ever had that doesn’t know how he died. I wonder what this could mean. You received your power before you avoided your death. You have been innate with the power your entire life. The lifespan power awakens when one lives past his normal life. Why should the laws of time and space have any bearing on something that shouldn’t even be alive?”

Mr. Magnussen started gasping.

“The others that have the Lifespan power have speculated about such a person. A person who, through the natural course of their lives, has had the power their entire life. We decided that this person must be destroyed, in fear of offsetting the balance of the universe.

Miles laughed, but Jae was confused. Miles seemed to be going crazy.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“If someone like you is able to run around freely, you will destroy this power for all of us. The universe will no longer expand and contract. Our power will be dead.

Miles drew a silver knife from underneath his tuxedo coat.

Jae backed away from Miles.

“You cannot come to power Jae. If the Revolution is stopped, the universe will end. God put it into rotation, and it won’t be man that will unhinge it all. We decided long ago that you must die.”

Jae backpedaled from the crazed man and ran down the sidewalk at full speed. Suddenly he realized there was no reason to run- with a flick of his mind he could be thirty years in the future.

He stopped on the sidewalk, Miles running towards him. Miles was surely crazy, maybe the power caused it. Jae could easily see how someone could become unstable by being able to relive any of their memories.

He closed his eyes, and pictured his office in 2016. He felt the strange feeling of his mind being heavy, and suddenly there was a rush of noise and warm air.

He sat there in 2016, sweating heavily, holding the crumpled piece of paper he had been reading before the phone call from Mr. Magnussen.

“Mr. Kordiak, sir, you have a phone call in the main office.” She motioned towards the doorway.

“Go away!” Shouted Jae.

Ms. Sherman whimpered something and left as fast as she could.

This was getting very bad. Very bad indeed. With Mr. Magnussen, a man with the ‘lifespan’ power, running around trying to kill him, he would need to be very careful.

His life, and all his memories, depended on it.

Jae left the office immediately and returned to his car in the parking lot. His car was a refurbished DMC-12 DeLorean, the car used in those Steven Spielberg time travel movies from the 80’s. Back to the Future, or something like that. It was his own private joke.

He opened the stainless-steel gull wing door and slid into the comfortable leather interior. He started the engine and began to drive south along the ocean highway 7, towards home.

After about a twenty minute drive, the silver car drove up his driveway, allowing his house to come into view.

It was a large affair, with white fences and a big, beautiful flower garden outside the large two-story Victorian house.

Opening the large wooden door to his home, he was thinking to himself.

Why had Miles Magnussen waited fifteen years to try to kill me? Couldn’t he have caught me off guard and killed me right when I got the power?

He didn’t know the moment where he almost died, but he wanted to find out.

That night, he racked his memories to try to find out when. There had always been that vision of rain. Rain, dark and cold. City streets.

Hmmm.

Not enough information to return to a memory.

Magnussen’s voice echoed in his mind.

“One receives this power by accidentally surviving an incident that had always been fatal.”

Jae thought about it harder now.

City streets. Rain. Sidewalks. He tried harder. Black car.

Still not enough, but he was getting there.

Wait.

There had been a figure in a car. The black car. A shadowy figure. He remembered seeing the figure right before he-

“Oh my god.”

The memories came back to him in a flood. He remembered every detail of that day in New York.

In 1990 he had been a police officer in the NYPD for almost ten years. That had been before he had any knowledge of the power.

One morning he had a court showing at 9:00 am over a disputed traffic ticket. He remembered in amusement that he had almost been hit by a car that day.

Wait,

No, could that be what that crazy Magnussen had been talking about? Had that little near accident been him avoiding his own demise?

A few days later he had suffered from serious amnesia and had been committed to a mental institution.

He decided he must return to that fateful day in new York to find out why he had gotten amnesia.

With a flash, he was back in New York, apparently around the time frame of the year 1990. The rain poured down on his already wet body. He was standing on the sidewalk, waiting to cross the street. Suddenly a black car streaked down the street. Something in the back of his mind showed him images of him being smashed by that car a few seconds in the future, being killed.

The visions were so horrifically real that Jae jumped back onto the sidewalk in reflex.

The large black Mercedes even swerved, to try and hit him. The big black tire screeched up onto the curb, but Jae was safely away from the deadly assassin.

The car stopped.

Rain cascaded down the shiny black paint, as groups of people crowded near. They were intent on what, or who, was going to step out of the driver’s seat.

Jae was only mildly surprised when Miles Magnussen stepped from the driver’s seat in dark clothing with a handgun aimed at Jae.

Oh my God.

His eyes were filled with hatred and pure determination, and Miles snapped the gun and pressed down on the trigger.

As if everything became blurry, Jae turned to run, fear already pumping through his heart. His feet began to move, slowly at first, but he was soon sprinting down the sidewalk.

He felt the wind of bullets scream past his head, all of the shots near misses.

To his left, he saw a subway station. In desperation, he jumped down the stairs inside.

Fumbling for his 9mm that he always kept in his holster, he knew that Miles must die. There was no other way to solve this.

He stood there, at the base of the steps, gun raised and aimed to kill.

Something clicked in his mind.

For fifteen years, he had thought he was entirely innocent of murdering a man he had never heard of. Miles J. Magnussen, which had been the name the fat lady in Sunnyvale had read from the sheet. How could he have murdered someone he had never heard of?

On the day of the trial, witness after witness had testified in seeing Jae Kordiak shoot Miles J. Magnussen to death in the subway.

Jae didn’t remember it because he hadn’t had the power then.

But time had looped back inward on itself. And as Miles came into view at the top of the stairs, shots echoed throughout the subway station. Jae shot madly at Miles, hitting him in the chest and head. Blood exploded from Miles, the surprised look still trapped on his unsuspecting face.

Magnussen fell down the stairs, unable to use his power to reverse his utmost mistake.

And as Jae stood above the body of Miles J. Magnussen, he knew. The circle had been completed. The murder committed, the power received, the revolution broken. The car accident was how he would have died. But it was done.

And Jae realized, there was no revolution break. Because as the cops circled around him, he knew that the very same verdict would be reached in the trial. No one would believe a man who said he can manipulate his memories. He would one day visit Sunnyvale Correctional Center, because no one would ever believe his story. And as the police handcuffed Jae Kordiak, the rain poured down on the New York City street. Miles was zipped up into a body bag.

Maybe that bastard Magnussen in a ‘better place’, though Jae to himself in anger.

Jae looked out the back window of the police cruiser in wonder and amazement. He even chuckled.

Because life is that little loop you can’t run from, can’t hide from, because the more you try, the more it completes the cycle.

 

Artifact Wavs

Remixes by Glowbug, Stephen Coleman, and Daniel Finfer.

  

 

Lightning In A Bottle: The New Coachella?

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Do Lab’s quintessential audio-visual-experience, Lightning In A Bottle.  And having just come from Coachella’s desert wasteland, I have to say it was quite refreshing.  Situated in a cooler environment (Temecula is technically cooler than Indio, look it up) and on a gorgeous lake, LIB already has a few things going for it.  And without the draw of major-label acts like Coachella, the general admission noise-floor is considerably lower, and more manageable.

Photo by Ancient Lasers
Photo by Ancient Lasers

The actual venue size is not only smaller and easier to navigate, but security is mild, and the general mood is pleasant and carefree.  Attendance capped out at around 13,000 (approximately), making it a fraction of the size.  Complaints, while there, were few.  Upon arrival to the ticket-booth at a local community college, the lines were unfathomably long due to an internet error that prevented staff from scanning tickets at a reasonable rate.  

Photo By Ancient Lasers
Photo By Ancient Lasers


Highlights included seeing Purity Ring, Tycho, and Nicholas Jaar from literally the front row – as the crowds are sparse and it is easy to simply walk up to the gate with ease, even in the middle of a set.  

Seconds later she teleported , I swear to God.
Seconds later she teleported , I swear to God.

 

Photo by Ancient Lasers
Photo by Ancient Lasers

At Coachella, you’ll be trapped top-side while pissing into empty beer cans for 3 hours.

 

Did I mention there was a water-park?
Did I mention there was a water-park?

Yeah, there was a full-blown water-park.

Little lost girl at LIB 2013
Little lost girl at LIB 2013

While Lightning In A Bottle goes through growing pains, and the zeitgeist of the music festival shifts its tastes from gigantic, stressful festivals to smaller, more manageable realms; they can be rest assured I will be a repeat customer to see where the movement leads.  

DIY: Make Your Own AV Cables

As a music producer and all-around computer dude, I spent a ton of money on cables that usually fall apart much sooner than they should. Being able to make AV cables is an important skill that will save you a ton of money over time. After working at Guitar Center and seeing the profit margin of Monster Cables, I decided to try it out myself. Video and audio cables are very easy to construct with the proper materials and basic soldering skills. Some of the advantages that come from making custom AV cables is the ability to make application-specific precise lengths and the choice of materials that are designed to help maximize signal transfer. Once these cables are finished, a system can have an optimized signal at a much lower cost than utilizing store-bought AV cabling.

Make your own A/V cables !

Instructions 

Preparatory Phase

Step One: Stripping the Cable

Always start by putting the cable in your left hand and the stripper cutter in the right. It is very important to remember that every kind of stripper is different. A person should point the stripper cutter’s outside away from their cable in order to leave about 1/4 inch of extra cable hanging off the end. They should only remove the extra wire later.

They should remove the insulation in order to expose the braided shielding and center pin. After that, they can slide the collar into the cable. They should not forget this procedure or they might have to start from the beginning once again.

Step Two: Trimming the Wire

After removing the insulation, they should start trimming the center wire to length. This will vary from one stripper to the next, but the usual correct length is about 19 mm from the tip of the conductor’s center to the outside insulation. This is where having the right stripper is very handy. However, a person can still make an excellent cable if they are using a less-than-ideal stripper.

Step Three: Crimping the Cable

Once the center has been trimmed to its desired length, a person should now place the center pin and crimp it very tight. It is always recommended to tug it a little bit in order to make sure that it is secure. After making sure that the center pin is straight, they should go ahead and slide the connector’s body on. They will feel a quick snap when the center pin locks securely.

After this has been achieved, they should fold the braiding back into the connector and slide the wire’s collar up into it. They should also remember to do this without flaring all the way back into the wire’s braiding. This will ensure that they are able to open it a little bit for the connector to slide in. It will make sure that they have a good connection down the road. After that, all people have to do is label the cable with either colored electrical tape or shrink tubing.

 

Making an Audio Cable

Step One

Start by removing the cable’s outer insulation with a standard box cutter or a good quality stripper. They should then cut the cable’s black wire flush of the outer insulation. It is also best to get it completely out of the way.

Step Two

After cutting the red wire to the desired length and leaving a little allowance, a person should then strip off about 18 inches of the red wire’s tip and twist it very tight. People should cover the exposed copper with solder to make it much easier to move to the center pin.

Step Three

They should then fill the tip of the wire with solder and slip the red wire into the AV cable center pin. It should be held securely until it cools down. A person should then twist the grounding cable very tight and push it into the connector’s stem through its holes. They should wrap it around to make sure that it is held securely in place.

An individual should then flip the connector over with the stem facing outside up and solder the grounding wire to it. They should trim off the extra ground wire and crimp the collar down on the insulation’s outer part with a pair of pliers. The connector’s body should be screwed on to finish the cable.

Waves In The Reflection, Chapter Two: Updated Font

 

Ancient Lasers Waves In The Reflection Two: Updated Font

 

Ancient Lasers is the collected effort of Daniel Finfer and Daniel Anderson. 

We also got to work with one of the internet’s most transcendent artists – Petra Cortright.

Ancient Lasers Cover

Petra Cortright is either very ahead of her time, or very behind. Or both.  Her art pieces usually use some combination of Netscape-era GIF’s, glittery-cheesy-glitched-out-graphics and Myspace=ishASCII fonts.  Her YouTube channel is a hot mess of post-human exhibition- complete with bizarre video plugins, presets, and maybe its imovie after effects.  It’s kinda like one of those webcam girl pop-up-ads, if it was live-streaming from a bizarre, fucked-out future where America Online and the Super Nintendo are still the coolest dudes in the room:

 

As we were wrapping up the Ancient Lasers album, I started looking for images similar to her glitch-mountains, which had always fascinated me – since around 2007 – when most of the songs for this record were penned.  Like a nature photographer hiking through the uncanny valley, pieces like the one below remind me of some dicked-up digital program.. trying to remember what real life was like way back when:

Digital Mountains
Digital Mountains

Somewhere deep inside Google Image Search and FFFFound, I realized that she’s probably not dead yet and that I could just have her create a new one.  I decided to send her a picture of Mount Baker, in Bellingham, WA. Primarily because both myself, and Daniel Anderson spent the majority of our lives in the place; but also because I use to stare at this mountain from our farm growing up:

View from farm in Ferndale, Washington
View from farm in Ferndale, Washington

Underneath the gaze of this mountain, the chain of events that led me to discovering my musical ability at age 17 transpired.  That’s right, folks! I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with my life until one summer, when I was bored and downloaded Fruity Loops from Limewire. I had always been able to play songs on the radio by ear via keyboard, and had taken orchestra in elementary school (where I played violin and a hilariously giant upright bass), but had never thought about making music.  After a few days, it kind of just clicked – pre-Music, I had wanted to be an author and wrote a lot of Sci-Fi stories – and was usually the best in my art class (no offense, Ferndale, but there wasn’t much competition).

JUST FUCKING THEN, I discovered three bands that would forever shape my future: Nine Inch Nails, The Postal Service, and Idiot Pilot.

I had just transferred to a “hippy high school”:

Actual Screenshot of My High School's Google + Review

 So my brother had given me a copy of The Downward Spiral to take on the trip.  Now, this was destined to be a pretty terrible trip. Something about all my teachers being permanently happy was cool, fine, alright im learning about nanotechnology and resource-based economies; and the combination of listening to lyrics like “God is dead, no one cares; if there is a hell, I’ll see you there” while sitting in a circle of kids burning sage and banging on guitars/djimbe’s was pretty fucking rad.

Anyways, I’m in a shitty tent, alone in a new, weird school, and godam im tired, maybe ill pull out this huge blue sony discman n listen to nin cuz mike said it’s be coool…..

How To Destroy Hippies
How To Destroy Hippies

What thaua fuaaak? Music made by machines? A concept album about a lonely human fighting against it? Battling with the inherent lack of meaning that is OUR reality? Thanks, Trent.

Yet it wasn’t until I happened to look at the album liner notes (back when they were paper) and seeing “Pretty Much Everything By Trent Reznor” all over the place that I realized that with a computer, you don’t need to have a band.

You can just be the band.

Once I got home after somehow not killing myself, I heard about The Postal Service – mainly because one of the dudes was Ben Gibbard, who was a Bellingham local.  It was a snow day at Whatcom Community College, and we were shoe-sledding down an icy hill on Indian St. because that’s what you do in Bellingham in September of 2003.  My friend knew some guy that lived nearby, so we all went to warm up. Keep in mind, this was probably 6 months before Give Up had been released nationally.

Pre-Hipster-Era
Pre-Hipster-Era

The moment I heard The Postal Service in that kid’s house, I realized that not only was electronic music becoming popular with kids that used to talk shit about me listening to Daft Punk’s Discovery in high school (because this weird video game music will never be cool); but that someone from Bellingham, Washington, had made an album that was suddenly gaining mainstream attention.  I was there, folks, and it was weird watching The Postal Service go from local heroes to being the band I turn off in the car because I’ve heard Such Great Heights 749,999 times this week on 107.7 The End.

Which brings it all back circle.

One day two kids from Bellingham named, quite eerily, Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson (My brother’s name is Michael and my middle name is Harris), won the EMP SoundOff! competition and were being played on 107.7. My sister heard Idiot Pilot – To Buy A Gun – Strange We Should Meet Here and came home yabbing about it to me, saying “its like gonna be ur fav band cuz NIN and Postal Service”.

I listened to “Strange We Should Meet Here” a few times through, and then read somewhere on Myspace that the album was made on Fruity Loops.

The Original, Offical Album Cover (If you're from Bellingham)
The Original, Offical Album Cover (If you’re from Bellingham)

*Queue the sound of something clicking at 450 bpm*

See you later, Chihuahua’s Mexican Restaurant (their actual website). 

That very month, I moved to Los Angeles to work on music (in between a few expensive and extremely inconvenient trips to Santa Clara University for some weird networking thing called “college”).

My first music thing whatever fuck you
My first music thing whatever fuck you

Idiot Pilot had just released Tail Of A Jet Black Swan. I saw a post from Daniel Anderson one day asking if anyone wanted a remix done. Coincidentally, I had just finished an album I am still proud of, Post Human Era – To Build A Fire, with my producing mentor Brian Delizza. I had taken a few guitar lessons from Daniel in Bellingham the summer before, and decided to not be a bitch and send him a few songs.  He sent me back a remix of Building The Machine:

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked; and asked him if he wanted to do, like, 13 more, start a new band, and oh yeah here’s Petra’s album cover:

By Petra Cortright
By Petra Cortright

 

Moving At The Speed Of Drone: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

There are some interesting technologies coming into the spotlight as of late, and when observed individually, they are quite impressive. But when you take a step back and see where all of this is headed, the outlook for humanity can appear breathtaking. Yet, it only take a couple mouse clicks to have that techno-optimism destroyed. A good example is the coming drone revolution.

Drones are essentially flying robots, and they have been getting alot of negative press lately, what with all the accidental killing of civilians and fears of a totalitarian police-state being able to spy on everyone and everything 24/7. Take this Dragonfly Drone someone spotted at a family barbecue:

The toothpaste is out of the tube: it is now possible for someone to see everything you do. But wait! There’s more! Someone decided to use the simple formula “Drone + Gun = Great Idea” and build an autonomous, Ipad-controlled flying machine gun that literally self-destructs if it gets shot down.

Welcome to hell, right? How does one defend themselves against something like that? A personal laser defense system? Imagine 100, or even 10,000 of those flying into your city.

However, there is some good news. Farmers have started using drones to view crops, saving money on expensive surveillance services normally conducted by plane. But imagine how much more efficient an army of farming drones would be. You could plant crops in places you can’t get to, schedule watering and maintenance, harvest food autonomously, and even have it delivered to a customer’s doorstep. Supermarkets will be a thing of the past. Also, think about construction.

Drones will allow for the construction and demolition of a building within days, if not hours. Combine this with the benefits 3D printing will provide, and it is easy to imagine an entire city migrating to follow resources.

Here’s where I’m going with all this: We are going to need to completely overhaul the economic system. What is going to happen when China begins to use robots because it is economically feasible to do so? Can our economy support ONE BILLION unemployed people? What happens to the construction workers, farmers, truck drivers, and other assorted service people who will be suddenly unemployed? We are heading towards a post-scarcity society with a scarcity-driven economy.

There is a solution, however. Economic models like the Resource Based Economy Principle dictate a world centered around a vast resource management system, a living wage, using the highest levels of technology available to eliminate corrupt profit models. God forbid any of us be judged by how good we are as human beings and what we contribute to society.

These technologies need to happen like, yesterday. Why? Because there’s a great big Brother eyeing the killswitch; who is quickly realizing he will soon be obsolete, and I don’t think he’s going quietly.

 

 

Memetic Evolution: The Post-Biological Paradigm

Who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going?

It’s a complex, three part question that we may never be able to fully answer. We do, however, get closer every day. We build things. We revise them, and build them better. We make art to express ourselves, and wage war to defend ourselves. The world today is growing radically different than the world of the ancients – and even the world of our American pioneers. If one were to look at the charts and graphs scientists have developed to demonstrate our ever increasing technological prowess, they may find themselves startled and afraid. The charts are climbing through the roof, shifting towards an exponential trend of growth. Some argue that the Darwinian mode of genetic evolution is being replaced by a new form of evolution dubbed Memetic Evolution. Memes are human habits -art, music, literature, and all other facets of our culture. And our memes, it seems, are copying themselves at an alarming rate.

The time it takes to communicate a thought from one human being to another is shrinking exponentially. The activities of writing letters and sending telegrams have been replaced by the newer, faster methods of email and text messaging. What took a matter of weeks if not months a hundred years ago now takes a matter of minutes if not seconds. If one were to extrapolate that trend of growth into the future, surely in the next hundred years it seems that we may become able to communicate instantaneously, even telepathically.

Yet, in this human frenzy of growth and exploration, we have to occasionally stop and smell the roses. How did we get here in the first place? Why were humans blessed with the gift of knowledge, and the poor chimpanzee left to poke around in the dirt?

Our ancestors first began making music and art some 40,000 years ago. Was this a result of some divine entity imparting its wisdom into our souls? Probably not. Most researchers have come to agree that such a change took place over thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years worth of genetic mutations. Was it the fact that our brains grew to be much larger than our predecessors? That was also not the case. Neanderthals had a similar sized brain as the Cro Magnon man, yet displayed very little culture. The Cro Magnon man performed many rituals when one of their loved ones died. They places thousands of beads into the grave, and spent a large amount of time preparing the ceremony. Neanderthals, on the other hand, simply chucked the dead body into a pit. It seems that they had much less regard and understanding of life in this regard. They did not exhibit any signs of art, music, or any culture for that matter compared to the Cro Magnon man.

So then, what was it that set us apart? Why did we ascend to a higher state of existence compared to our animal neighbors? Perhaps it was not the actual size of our brains, but the wiring that gave us knowledge. Hunting was probably the primary reason we invented tools and communication. We designed, built, and redesigned stone tools until they gave us effective results. Then, we used methods of communication to impart this knowledge to our descendants. Then, while hunting, we developed signals and signs to aid in the kill. Thus, we began to devise hunting plans, and tactics. We began to work together. This would have eventually become language as we know it, when our first vocalizations could be heard echoing throughout the ancient landscape. A verbal language would have greatly sped up the communication process. That would have in turn allowed for more efficient hunting and gathering practices, as more knowledge would have been conveyed in a shorter amount of time. This would have resulted in more free time, which would have allowed hobbies like bead making and art to become commonplace.

Thus, the birth of culture. Bead making could have led to a value system, where beads were traded for goods and services. As time went on, our ancestors may have found gold and silver, and traded those. Money is born. The more money an individual had, the more power was associated with that person. Now we start getting into wars to gain more power, more control over land and hunting areas. People start to make more and more art and music so that they can forget about the wars, and the pain of lost loved ones. They may have found that while they were making music or art that time seemed to slow down, and they were able to connect with some hidden force that felt eternal, and more real than reality itself. For in those fleeting moments of creativity, they were becoming eternal by creating something that would live on long after they were gone. These ancestors of ours could connect with one another in ways the physical world could not have allowed them to in the past. Unbeknownst to them, they were building the framework of what would someday become society itself – a network of thought and culture.

Fast forward to now.

Today, this network is more present than ever, and growing rapidly. Even though biologically we may be the same as we were some 50,000 years ago, our minds have expanded out into the universe, and deep into our own souls.

Memes convey seemingly infinite meaning, as the groups that weld them impart more and more ‘inside jokes’ into their digital fabric. For now, memes are mostly internet jokes that other people build upon. Memes are also merging with each other, giving birth to new memes. It only takes a quick glance at a site like https://www.reddit.com to understand how fast this evolutionary system is advancing.

One could suppose that soon, memes will eclipse entire industries, especially marketing. I am sure corporate memes, run as ads on social media sites, are not far off. We could also assume then the use of memes by entertainment celebrities and politicians, even entire ideologies.

As a race, we have become aware of our own limitations – time, space, and ourselves. And as we tirelessly work to break through these boundaries, we may not realize how similar the act of building a space shuttle is to building a stone axe. They are both tools we use to advance ourselves, and now more than ever, it feels as though we are on the verge of another mental big bang. Just as our ancestors broke through the barrier separating action from speech, we may be on the verge of breaking through the barrier that separated our bodies from our souls. For someday soon, we may truly get the chance to meet our true selves and shake our own hands. Someday soon, we may decide not to be human, or anything, at all.